This summer, in addition to serving as the interim Communications Coordinator for the English Department, I also spent three weeks touring the United Kingdom, hiking through the Scottish highlands, and attending various shows and performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world.
Edinburgh was the first city designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a City of Literature in 2004. According to cityofliterature.com, Edinburgh is “a literary powerhouse, attracting and spawning best-selling writers, home to vibrant publishing houses and the birthplace of the world’s biggest book festival….Edinburgh [is] bursting with literary history and heritage.”
My traveling partner and boyfriend, Andy Robertson, was an excellent tour guide having lived in Edinburgh for 6 years (he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s at the University of Edinburgh). During our 6 days at the Fringe, we saw 12 shows (and an additional 2 in London), visited 8 “literary pubs,” drank 300 cups of tea, and learned about the history and culture of Edinburgh.
Here is some more information about the top eight literary pubs that we visited in Edinburgh:
Literary Pub Tour of Edinburgh:
1.The White Hart Inn: Founded in 1516, the White Hart Inn is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs, so it’s no surprise that many notable literary figures have stayed there. Robert Burns lodged there on his last visit to Edinburgh in 1791, as did William and Dorothy Wordsworth in 1803.
2. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern This pub commemorates Deacon Brodie, a man whose fascinating double life is said to have inspired The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. By day, Deacon Brodie was a cabinet-maker and respected city councillor of Edinburgh, but by night he led a second life as a burglar, partly for the thrill of it and partly to fund his gambling. 3. Sheep Heid Inn: There has reputedly been a pub on this spot selling liquor and victuals since 1360. If this date is correct it would make The Sheep Heid Inn the oldest pub in Edinburgh, and possibly all of Scotland. It was cute, cozy, and a favorite destination for poets throughout the centuries. Also, at the base of Arthur’s Seat, it’s a great place to grab a post-hike beer!
4. The Blind Poet: Poems are inscribed on the wood panels inside The Blind Poet in homage to the former owner, eighteenth century poet, Thomas Blacklock. The pub now features a series of open mic and spoken word nights.
5. Greyfriars Bobby Bar: Greyfriars Bobby Bar occupies the ground floor of a row of Georgian houses adjoining the historic Candlemakers’ Hall, built in 1722. The name of the bar is inspired by an Edinburgh legend of ay Skye terrier called Bobby. When his owner died in 1858, Bobby faithfully watched over his grave and was buried alongside his master in the Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1872.
8. Elephant House: Although this is not a pub, it is one of Edinburgh’s most famous cafes. JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series while sipping tea and eating cake in this cafe.